Mayan Center for Peace: Guatemala to Minnesota


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How have neo-liberal economic doctrines impacted indigenous communities in Guatemala? What new ways of life present ways of resistance political-cultural repression?

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Mayan Center for Peace: Guatemala to Minnesota

  1. 1. The Mayan People <ul><li>A once vast empire in Mesoamerica </li></ul><ul><li>Peaked during classical period (250-900AD) before declining mysteriously </li></ul><ul><li>The empire was broken into regional kingdoms which correspond to the language groups that still persist: Mam, Ki'ch'es, Kack'chiquel, Tz'utuh'il, Pokom'chí, Kek'chi, Chorti </li></ul><ul><li>To be Mayan is to cultivate maiz. To the modern descendents of the Maya, corn is still considered sacred. </li></ul>
  2. 2. Guatemala <ul><li>Total population 13.3 million people </li></ul><ul><li>44% of population of Guatemala are indigenous people </li></ul><ul><li>Remainder are mostly Ladino </li></ul><ul><li>53% rural, subsistence agriculture based </li></ul><ul><li>70% national literacy is lowest in Central America, much lower among indigenous </li></ul>
  3. 3. Disagreement over interpretation of natural resources as: <ul><li>Potential Money Wealth VS Inherent Wealth </li></ul>Sellers/ Commodifiers Subsisters
  4. 4. Among the “Sellers,” Who will control Land, Labor, and Infrastructure in Central America after 1821? <ul><li>Liberal VS Conservative </li></ul><ul><li>Comprised of: </li></ul><ul><li>Small land owners </li></ul><ul><li>Laborers </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectuals </li></ul><ul><li>Characterized by: </li></ul><ul><li>Secularization </li></ul><ul><li>Land concessions to foreign investors </li></ul><ul><li>Access to land for indigenous people and working class </li></ul><ul><li>Comprised of: </li></ul><ul><li>Landed Families </li></ul><ul><li>Merchants </li></ul><ul><li>Church </li></ul><ul><li>Characterized by: </li></ul><ul><li>State religion </li></ul><ul><li>Protectionism </li></ul><ul><li>Preserve land ownership for aristocracy and Church </li></ul>
  5. 5. Guatemalan Independence 1821 <ul><li>Liberal </li></ul><ul><li>Mariano G á lvez </li></ul><ul><li>British investors allowed large tracts of land. </li></ul><ul><li>Secular marriage, school, judicial reform. </li></ul><ul><li>Squatters permitted to buy land at half price and Indians permitted to settle on vacant lands. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Carrera's Revolt 1839 <ul><li>Conservative Rafael Carrera led clergy, Indian/ mestizo , creole land owners in revolt against G á lvez secular, taxation, and land reforms. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Long live religion and death to all foreigners!” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Carrera Dominated Central America 1839-1865 <ul><li>Carrera made sure that land went back in to the hands of entrenched elites and the church, forcing indigenous people into service as laborers through debt peonage. </li></ul>
  8. 8. U.S. Investors Notice Potential of Central America <ul><li>1850's rising global demand for coffee </li></ul><ul><li>California Gold Rush transit route through Nicaragua. </li></ul><ul><li>William Walker's Nicaraguan Adventure </li></ul>
  9. 9. Liberal movement progressively corrupted <ul><li>Obsession to accommodate foreign coffee and banana growers with the necessary . . . </li></ul><ul><li>Land </li></ul><ul><li>Labor (justified by notions of white supremacy) </li></ul><ul><li>Infrastructure </li></ul>
  10. 10. Liberal strongmen challenge conservative rule, instability 1865-1931 <ul><li>Justo Rufino Barrios passionate for liberal reform and Central American unity </li></ul><ul><li>Manuel Estrada Cabrera famous for cruel repression of autonomous indigenous communities in effort consolidate state power and create unified national market for land, labor, and commodities. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Jorge Ubico 1931-1944 <ul><li>Land: Seized land from church, government, and indigenous people, for sale in large tracts to foreign investors. </li></ul><ul><li>Labor: Forced labor for indigenous people through vagrancy laws. Attempts to organize during Great depression were brutally suppressed </li></ul><ul><li>Infrastructure: allowed transport industry to fall into the hands of U.S. owned International Railways of C.A. IRCA linked to United Fruit that established control over banana industry. </li></ul>
  12. 12. October Revolutionaries <ul><li>Ubico resigned in the face of a general strike and popular protests against his pro-Nazi repression. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Jos é Ar é valo Bermejo 1945-1951 <ul><li>Continued moderate accommodation of U.S. investors, tempered by: </li></ul><ul><li>organized labor </li></ul><ul><li>literacy campaigns </li></ul><ul><li>gender equality </li></ul><ul><li>free press </li></ul><ul><li>criminalization of racial discrimination </li></ul><ul><li>*1950 census report showed that 2 percent of Guatemalans controlled 74 percent of arable land </li></ul>
  14. 14. Jacobo Arbenz 1952-1954 <ul><li>Took national independence from U.S. capital way too far, allowing: </li></ul><ul><li>labor to movement to organize on a massive scale through the Confederaci ó n General de Trabajadores Guatemaltecos (over 100,000 workers) </li></ul><ul><li>expropriation of land to Indian peasants, cutting into United Fruit's holdings. By June 1954, over 100,000 peasant families had received land along with credit and technical assistance. </li></ul>
  15. 15. “Operation Success” 1954 President Eisenhower CIA Director Allen Dulles Secretary of State John Foster Dulles Former partners in UFCO's legal counsel UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs John Moors Cabot UFCO stockholders
  16. 16. Castillo Armas <ul><li>U.S. backed right-wing dictator dedicated his tenure to the reversal of revolutionary effects through: </li></ul><ul><li>intense repression </li></ul><ul><li>brutal counterinsurgency </li></ul><ul><li>dependence on foreign capital through the deregulation of of U.S. industry and agriculture. </li></ul><ul><li>Armas' military leadership became the model for government in Guatemala. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Scorched Earth <ul><li>In 1981, various guerrilla groups banded together to form the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemlteca (URNG) </li></ul><ul><li>1978-1983 Rios Montt's “scorched earth” tactics aimed to cut off supplies to guerrillas hidden in the mountains and were characterized by the massacre, displacement, and psychological control of peasant communities. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Frente Democr ático en Contra de la Repression (FDCR) <ul><li>Rios Montt was ousted in 1983 by the FDCR, a coalition of grassroots groups of </li></ul><ul><li>indigenous people </li></ul><ul><li>Catholic activists </li></ul><ul><li>shantytown dwellers </li></ul><ul><li>urban union workers </li></ul><ul><li>housewives </li></ul><ul><li>students </li></ul><ul><li>teachers </li></ul><ul><li>human rights activists </li></ul>
  19. 19. Vinicio Cerezo Ar é valo <ul><li>FDCR compromised with conservative congress of Guatemala to install Christian Democrat, Cerezo Ar é valo. </li></ul><ul><li>1985 Constituent Assembly created a constitution that institutionalized private land ownership and military repression. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Women, indigenous people suffer gravely <ul><li>Between 1980 and 1987, extreme poverty, inequality, infant mortality sky rocket; literacy, life expectancy, foreign aid plummet. </li></ul>
  21. 21. More U.S. Aid <ul><li>Ronald Reagan convinced U.S. Congress to lift Jimmy Carters ban on arms grants to the Guatemalan government based on the notion that Guatemala's human rights record was improving. </li></ul>
  22. 22. Separating Indigenous People from Guerrillas <ul><li>Indigenous people were relegated to “model villages” and compelled to participate in “Civil Defense Patrols” </li></ul>
  23. 23. URNG Guerrillas Request Peace Talks 1989
  24. 24. Co-opting the Peace Process <ul><li>In 1991, born-again Christian, Jorge Serrano Elias, elected on promises of Peace and implementation of human rights policies. His time was marked by a wave of assassinations of activists and murders of street children at the hands of military, national police, and right-wing civilian death squads (Rios Montt supporters). </li></ul>
  25. 25. Indigenous Resistance <ul><li>Indigenous peoples' movement coalesced in 1993, emboldened by electricity rate increases and the international recognition of Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Nobel Peace Prize winner. </li></ul><ul><li>Thousands return from exile </li></ul><ul><li>Communities assert autonomous systems of self-organization </li></ul><ul><li>1993 protest to abolish Civil Defense Patrols </li></ul><ul><li>Resurgence of Mayan Culture </li></ul>
  26. 26. Autogolpe (Self coup) <ul><li>In 1993, Serrano Elias responded to mounting unrest and popular demonstrations by dissolving the powers of congress and the supreme court into his own hands. </li></ul><ul><li>Serrano justified his actions by citing the dual crisis of the war on corruption and the war on drugs. </li></ul><ul><li>The U.S. pulled out all aid. The coup collapsed and Serrano fled to Panama. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Le ó n C a rpio <ul><li>Backed by the military, congress, and business elites, Carpio re-opens negotiations with URNG, effectively ignoring land, labor, political reform, and poverty issues. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Poverty Indicators for Indigenous People 1991 <ul><li>Infant Mortality 134/1000 among indigenous is two times the rate of non-indigenous rate. </li></ul><ul><li>10% of indigenous population able to read </li></ul><ul><li>75% of indigenous children malnourished </li></ul><ul><li>Life expectancy is 45 years vs. 61 years for non-indigenous </li></ul><ul><li>Root cause of poverty attributed to a lack of access to land. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Land Distribution 1991 <ul><li>Rural Counterinsurgency razed peasant land and displaced 1 million people </li></ul><ul><li>Government interest in winter vegetables for export to U.S. favored land concentration </li></ul><ul><li>Displaced indigenous people flow to urban centers to work in maquilas, where workers earned $2.50 for up to 17 hour workdays. 36% of products exported to the U.S. </li></ul>
  30. 30. Current Land Distribution <ul><li>1998 96% of producers cultivated 20% of land, while 2% owned 70% </li></ul><ul><li>Land pressure pushes farms below subsistence area, leads to soil erosion, reduced yields. </li></ul><ul><li>Farmers learn to supplement food with money remittances </li></ul>
  31. 31. 1995 Alvaro Arzu Irgoyen elected <ul><li>Peace Accords are drafted under aegis of UN </li></ul><ul><li>New Guatemala Democratic Front Party emerges, elects 3 indigenous females as congressional deputies. </li></ul>Nineth Montenegro GAM Rosalina Tuyuc Guatemalan Widows Confederation Manuela Alvarado Maya rights activist
  32. 32. 1996 Peace Accords Ratified <ul><li>De-mobilization of guerrillas </li></ul><ul><li>Promotion of indigenous rights </li></ul><ul><li>State decentralization and public administration reform </li></ul><ul><li>Rural development </li></ul><ul><li>Restructuring of public security and national defense </li></ul>President Alvaro Arzu Irgoyen
  33. 33. Military, Elite, International Resistance to Socioeconomic and Agrarian Issues Accord: <ul><li>Neoliberal economic policies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>foreign investment in private sector, IMF prescriptions, privatization of public utilities, international loans </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Export trade to the exclusion of: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Regulation of big foreign business </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>taxation and social spending </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>wage increases </li></ul></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Military, Elite, International Resistance to Socioeconomic and Agrarian Issues Accord: <ul><li>Right-wing supporters of Rios Montt actively form “Civilian Police Force” 1997 </li></ul><ul><li>Death squads continue to operate with impunity, shielded by landed oligarchy, amnesty laws, and corrupt judicial system. </li></ul><ul><li>Archbishop Mnsr. Juan Gerardi assassinated, having published human rights report implicating army in 90% of 200,000 massacre victims. </li></ul>
  35. 35. REMHI: Recovery of Historical Memory Project <ul><li>First hand accounts and analyses detail the physical and psychological horror of rape, torture, humiliation, exemplary violence, dismemberment, removal of unborn children, mutilation, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Mnsr. Juan Gerardi was bludgeoned to death in his home two days after the release of the human rights report including victims' testimonies. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Economic stagnation since neoliberal economic policies 1996 <ul><li>GDP growth slows from 1.3 % to .8% since 1996 </li></ul><ul><li>Taxation grows by 2% </li></ul><ul><li>Government spending falls steadily </li></ul><ul><li>Trade and payment deficits rise sharply </li></ul>
  37. 37. A Culture of Fear <ul><li>During the civil war: </li></ul><ul><li>200,000 Mayan people were massacred </li></ul><ul><li>1 million were internally displaced </li></ul><ul><li>over 1 million more exiled </li></ul><ul><li>Currently: </li></ul><ul><li>Survivors experience post traumatic stress and altered grieving </li></ul><ul><li>Between 1 and 2 million Guatemalans are undocumented in their own country, as documents were destroyed during scorched earth. </li></ul>
  38. 38. A Culture of Violence <ul><li>Since 2000, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras rank 1, 4, and 5 for murder rate in the world, attributed to gangs and youth violence. </li></ul><ul><li>Indigenous people fall victim to fatal muggings because they commute on foot to urban centers during night time hours. </li></ul><ul><li>Police rarely intervene or investigate such matters. </li></ul>
  39. 39. Exclusion of Mayan People <ul><li>Mayans still denied loans that would help them buy more fertile farmland and are often discriminated against by leaders in charge of distributing government farm aid. </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;Access to land is the fundamental theme affecting the rights of Indian populations... and if these problems are allowed to continue as they have been, with no one working toward solutions, the possibility of social conflicts will increase,&quot; said [ Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN Rep. for Indian Peoples] </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2002 BBC report </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  40. 40. Exclusion continued <ul><li>A major goal of Mayan leaders is to receive reparations from the state. Peace accords provide for reparations to victims and their relatives, but only 30, 000 applications have been received. </li></ul><ul><li>Rosalina Tuyuc says people are afraid to come forward because political, economic, and military systems since the war are still intact. </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>~Prensa Libre October 2007 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  41. 41. Mayan Center for Peace MN <ul><li>Our goal is to support the work of the Mayan Center for Peace in Guatemala by facilitating educational experiences in Minnesota regarding the struggle of indigenous people in Guatemala. </li></ul>
  42. 42. Mayan Center for Peace in Guatemala: Weaving Cooperative <ul><li>Color patterns in weavings bear Mayan histories and cosmologies. Some looms and materials are donated by delegations of the Global Citizens Network, and all are communally owned by members of the cooperative. </li></ul>
  43. 43. Mayan Education <ul><li>Many Mayan parents prohibit their children from speaking indigenous languages to protect them from racism. </li></ul><ul><li>A long-term goal of the Mayan Center for Peace is to develop and support curricula for school children in their ancestral languages. </li></ul>
  44. 44. Grassroots Resistance to Neoliberal Economic Forces <ul><li>All over the globe, we are finding ways to resist the commodification of land and to see the inherent value of nature and humans. </li></ul>
  45. 45. My sources <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Guatemala: Never Again! REMHI Recovery of Historical Memory Project-Archdiocese of Guatemala </li></ul><ul><li>History of Latina America: Independence to the Present Volume 2 Sixth Edition by Keen and Haynes </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  46. 46. Further Reading (that I intend to read) <ul><li>Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala by Stephen E. Schlesinger, Stephen Kinzer </li></ul><ul><li>Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy by Victor Perera (Author) </li></ul>
  47. 47. Further reading (continued) <ul><li>Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala by Victoria Sanford </li></ul><ul><li>To Save Her Life: Disappearance, Deliverance, and the United States in Guatemala Saxon, Dan </li></ul>
  48. 48. Further reading (continued) <ul><li>The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? by Francisco Goldman </li></ul><ul><li>Guatemala Never Again! REMHI Archdiocese of Guatemala </li></ul>